Who’s Rewarding Whom?

(For the audio version of this blog, please visit: http://brothersinchristcmf.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/Mass-Blog-for-the-8th-Sunday-in-Ordinary-Time-2022.mp3)

A recent newspaper article attempting to explain why Catholics are being drawn to Pentecostal churches cites the “theology of prosperity,” which holds that God’s grace is reflected in material wealth. It quotes a pastor who promises followers that they too will get rich if they donate generously.

The prosperity gospel seems to argue that you CAN have your cake and eat it too. But imagine altering this cliché slightly by replacing cake with apple pie. The gospel of Jesus might then inspire you to be an apple tree so you can be a constant source of blessing for others.  

In other words, in light of this Sunday’s Mass readings, it’s wiser to think of the rewards you get from life as achieved by giving, not receiving. In Luke’s gospel (Lk 6:39-45), Jesus tells us:

“A good tree does not bear rotten fruit, nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit.”

The first reading from Sirach (Sir 27:4-7) takes us further into the process of feeding others. Now imagine yourself as the plate for that apple pie—and that our maker fashioned us so we don’t crack under pressure.

As the test of what the potter molds is in the furnace, so in tribulation is the test of the just.

When we think of our lives as a series of steps to purify and strengthen our properties so as to serve others better, we no longer fear the non-existence of an afterlife because our success becomes the reward that clothes us in immortality, as Paul tells the Corinthians by paraphrasing the prophet Hosea (1 Cor 15:54-58):

Death is swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?

Jesus taught in parables that spoke gospel truths. Where prosperity is concerned, his parable of how a master rewards his servants for wisely investing the talents he gives them explains how rewards work in God’s Kingdom:

‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’

Prosperity is a well-lived life, and the joy it produces is a reward we were made to share with God.

–Tom Andel

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